Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Prussian heroism

One could see that different civilisations have different class values and have developed different forms of capitalism. For example, the Asian form of capitalism in it's present form is patriarchal and based on a collectivist view on the state as an extended family, remniscent of Asian confucianism which have predetermined much of the economic and cultural development of the Chinese zone.

I will not dedicate this article to the inherent differences between Russia and Europe, which is necessary to do in order to understand how our new European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will work compared to the USSR, but rather define a historic rift between two closely related cultural identities in Europe, which most Europeans may feel more affiliated with than with the old Soviet Union, namely the differences between anglophilic culture and germanophilic culture.

Both of these cultures were inherently focused on work, moralism and based on protestant values derived more from Calvin than from Luther. Both of these cultures emerged fully during early trade capitalism in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and reached their highest manifestations until the crisis of capitalism was fully unleashed in year 1914, in the forms of Victorian Britain and Vilhelminist Germany.

Both these countries had historically during the two centuries before the Great War developed a close bond, which was broken by the competition over markets, German need for prestige and British needs of "continental balance". Though their seemingly similar character though, they had inherent differences which must be looked upon closer.

Victorian Britain was the then ideological fortress of capitalism and "commercial enterprise", free trade (it is easy to be for free trade when you control one quarter of the world's surface), as well as the myth of the entrepreneur. The capitalist was seen as the epithome of human development, almost as a representative of an emerging, supreme master race. The philosopher Herbert Spencer for example, wanted natural selection to solve the social problems in society.

Vilhelmine Germany was a result of British interests in Europe. It was founded by support from Britain, to stiffle the Second French Empire and open up new markets in Europe through the Zollwerein. It was an unintentional result, and the differences in interests and directions between the German and British social system would later on destroy Old Europe.

Vilhelmine Germany did not have capitalism as it's supreme guiding ideology, though it was a capitalist power, and an imperialist power, it did not live by the glorification of the capitalist, of free trade or of the attitudes of the bourgeoisie. Rather, the German culture looked down on trade, on cosmopolitanism and on banking.

In Germany, capitalists were called "industrialists" in official imperial propaganda, were they were depicted in a positive light. The word "capitalist" defines an individual who is controlling capital, and hence is a buyer of labor while not doing any work by himself. The archetypical capitalist looks like the penguin in Batman and wears a high hat. An industrialist in contrast, gives as a word the impression to rather be defining a large, bossy man with a shaved head who regularily inspects the work place and rather identify with his own workers than with other industrialists, just like a medieval feudal duke rather identified with his vassals than his likes.

One could therefore say that in Germany, pre-modern feudal values of social responsibility, and discarding of commerce still prevailed until the 20th century. The German patriarchal form of capitalism was not remniscent to the more family-based variants of capitalism and corporatism in the Latin countries, but to get a frame of reference, one might just look at the Nordic welfare system which was originally founded in Vilhelmine Germany by Bismarck. Social welfare was almost unique of Germany, and more generous than in any other contemporate state.

It was not a question of unlimited handouts, but of a form of system of responsibility, giving the worker (vassal) certain rights (privilegies) for service (duties) for the company. It was a conservative system, reactionary even, but yet surprisingly modern and durable. That Germany became the greatest industrial power in Europe in just 40 years, despite it's social welfare system and with protectionism as it's preferred trade policy, is something which libertarians conveniently chose to ignore (when they are not mocking Bismarck or Vilhelm II).

For those of you who think that we are praising a right-winger now, let us say two things.

First, Bismarck, when becoming chancellor of Prussia in 1862, offered Karl Marx the position of royal treasurer.

Second, what we are saying, is that a socialist Europe cannot, if it want to survive, employ a continuation of present americanised liberalism and consumerism, because those values worship the most improductive aspects of both production and class society. We cannot have a society where the celebrity, no matter if it is a pop star or a gender theorist, is uphold as an ideal, since it is sterile and improductive.

What we might need is ironically maybe a return to Prussian militarist, feudal and guild socialist values, akin back to the traditional European preference of valuing physical, material work over abstract idealist capital. In any way, we need to build up a confidence in the worker to defeat his feeling of alienation from work, and to progressively integrate the socialist project as something integral to European traditions, not something alien to them.

Yes, we know that Prussia was the favourite hate object of a lot of socialists during the 19th century. We do not contest that it was a reactionary monarchy. What we want to stress, is that some of it values, the despise of the middle-hand, of the capitalist and speculator, and the worship of the labourer, the officer and the "industrialist" shows forward to a unification of the European productive classes in the industrial and farming sectors against the prostituted classes.

Europe is a vehemently anti-capitalist culture. It only needs to awake. And we are the bell of dawn.


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